My first critic
"Who on earth wrote that trash?" asked the message that appeared in my MSN window. Unaware that I was the author of "that trash", my friend unwittingly became this blog's first critic.
Said epithet was being applied specifically to my comments about Bill Cosby.
One thing that irks me terribly (and I must admit it has irked me particularly in conversations I have had in the past with this friend on the subject of the English language) is people who take great pride in the way they speak English, but then proceed to deny others the same right, riding roughshod over the way they speak English. In this case, my friend, a Southern-talking Mississippian and rightly proud of it, won't even acknowledge African-American English as an English variant.
All talk about the logistics of African-Americans getting ahead in society without learning "standard English" aside, this boils down not to whether it is economically and socially advantageous for an African-American to change the way she talks, but whether anyone has the right, as Mr Cosby assumes, to write off the language of an entire ethnic group as "crap". A Frenchman, for example, might well have to learn to speak "standard English" if he were to become a doctor in the US, but imagine the outcry if I were to write of the French language, "You can't be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth!"
It's unnecessary and it's prejudiced. African-Americans have a heritage that includes a distinct language just as any community or ethnic group does. Linguists seem to know this. Even my friend seems to know this in principle when it comes to her ethnic group, her heritage. It's just a matter of affording that same respect to speakers of other variants of the English language. And until that basic respect is established, I am not sure arguments in favour of learning "standard English" deserve to be heard.